Six podcasts that changed the way I think about my business (and the world)
By Ballast Point managing director Mat Wilk
As someone who runs my own business, I am constantly looking for inspiration and ideas and listening to podcasts when I am walking, riding my bike or driving unlocks something and fires my imagination. I love hearing about how other people do things and how things can be achieved. Fundamentally, I find they make you think about the way you do things and force you to reconsider what you do and why. I oscillate between listening to podcasts and audiobooks – often podcasts feature interviews with authors, so it’s also a great way of finding new audiobooks to listen to. Here are some of my favourite podcasts from the past few years – some may surprise you.
A spin-off of the bestselling book of the same name by economist Steven Levitt and New York Times journalist Stephen J. Dubner, this podcast melds economics with pop culture. It is a fascinating examination of socioeconomic issues, with topics like how to make your own luck – episode 424 and how to make meetings less terrible – episode 389. I like it because its evidence-based and covers really interesting topics. They’re very clever guys.
2. Cautionary Tales
This is my favourite podcast of all time, with beautifully crafted stories about case studies of history, psychology, economics and the lessons they hold for us. Very influential and brilliantly written and produced. Host Tim Hartford introduced me to Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies, explained how innovation is stifled and brilliantly outlined cognitive dissonance and how to cope with failed predictions in economics.
3. Open for Business
This podcast about building a business covers topics like the entrepreneurial mind, how to hire, creating a workplace culture, surviving failure, and customer service in the digital era. It’s a fun chat fest but contains great lessons from interesting people. I recently listened to one about Big Ass Fans, and how the business started and evolved. We’re installing these fans everywhere at the moment whereas 2 years ago I’d never heard of them, so I found it particularly interesting.
4. HBR Idea Cast
This weekly Harvard Business Review podcast features the leading thinkers in business and management. Topics include setting a high bar for customer service, rules for effective hiring and firing, building more resilient supply chains, why work friends are worth it, and breaking down bureaucracy. I like it because it gives you new ideas and business models, as well as ways of dealing with staff and organising a business. My favourite episode featuring Jim McKelvey inspired me to read his book and greatly influenced how I view innovation and the barriers to innovation. Listen here.
5. Anthropocene Reviewed
Author and YouTube personality John Green reviews different facets of the current age in this monthly podcast. He usually reviews two topics, accompanied by stories on how they have impacted his own life and the world. They may include Tetris and the Seed Potatoes of Leningrad, Halley’s Comet and Cholera. He’s a amazing storyteller, and I draw inspiration from his brutal honesty and rich language – but I think that it’s the honesty that is engaging. We are all storytellers, its in our genes and in our culture, the buildings we design and build tell a story about the place, the people who worked on them and the people that will live in them so my job is a form of storytelling. The podcast is also being adapted into a book that is scheduled to be released in 2021 which I’m looking forward to.
6. How I Built This with Guy Raz
This insightful podcast with journalist and radio host Guy Raz is all about business start-ups, such as Uber and Airbnb. Produced by National Public Radio, it dives into the stories behind some of the world’s best-known companies, innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists. The older episodes are better, in my opinion. Click here to listen to my all-time favourite episode about James Dyson. The key insight was that James Dyson invented a superior product, but no vacuum cleaner company wanted to know about it because they were making too much money making disposable bags – in the end he destroyed their inefficient rent-seeking business model.